(Chemistry World) – "Chemists are a strange class of mortals, impelled by an almost insane impulse to seek their pleasures amid smoke and vapour, soot and flame, poisons and poverty."
This line from 17th century alchemist Johann Joachim Becher is frequently used by synthetic chemists to express their dedication and delight in practical work. Although a lot has changed since Becher’s day, chemists still spend a lot of time weighing solids and measuring liquids to make molecules and discover new reactions. ‘Chemistry is still a highly experimentally demanding discipline – you need to work in the lab to get results,’ says Cristina Nevado, an organic chemist at the University of Zurich, Switzerland.
However, robots are starting to beat chemists at their own game. An automated flow reactor optimises a reaction in only one day – a task that might take a human chemists weeks or even months. Smart systems like the drug discovery robot Eve combine lab skills and artificial intelligence to test and modify a given hypothesis.
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